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How to Make a Household Budget Plan

Welcome friends! This week we’re talking about how to make a household budget plan, and I’m actually pretty excited about this one. Back in March of 2021 our apartment flooded. It started out as a random wet spot on my bedroom floor and by the time it was done, they had to rip out all the carpets from our house, tear out the drywall, knock out some studs, and fill a gigantic crack that had been knocked in the foundation between two egress windows (we live in a spacious basement apartment). That was in March. We weren’t able to move back in and start setting our lives in order until the end of July, 2021! The complex put us in a temporary apartment and only charged us half of our rent during the process, but we had to move out of the temporary place in less than 24 hours once our proper home was finished, so they could fill it with longer term tenants. It. Was. A. Nightmare. Living in the smaller space stressed me out because our boys are so immensely noisy, and all of our neighbors had babies. Plus, living in a smaller space with only one bathroom to share together. My boys have not inherited their father’s good aim, let’s just put it that way.

While we were only charged half rent, it was still incredibly frustrating. We took the money we saved and used it to pay for our son’s braces, but living in the smaller space, with less storage, ended up costing us a lot in our food budget! I had to go shopping more frequently, which meant that I spent more money than I normally would each time I went to the store. Moving back in was also an added expense, because we didn’t have any way to cook food with all our belongings crammed into the kitchen (the only place that it didn’t flood into!) We ate out a lot, and grabbed easy to prepare foods to be able to stuff some food down quickly while we worked frantically to get everything set back up. Once we were moved back in, and about 73% done with organizing everything, it was time for us to rein in our spending, and get back to our strict budgeting. As I’ve said before, we live on a *very* low income, and are currently on food assistance from our state while my husband and I are going back to school, so we keep our spending very strict to ensure that we don’t tumble into some economic catastrophe. One of the first steps is to discuss where our money is going, and why it is going there. Now, what should be considered when planning a household budget? It all starts with tracking our spending. Every month we have fixed expenses, and variable expenses, and we build our budget around those. Fixed expenses include things like mortgages or rent, car payments, student loan payments, etc. Variable expenses are things like utility bills, gasoline for the car, food, and entertainment. Fixed expenses usually can’t be helped – they are what they are whether we like it or not! Variable expenses on the other hand, are where we usually find the wiggle room to hone in our budget. By tracking our spending, especially the variable spending, we’re able to visually see the holes in our spending habits that is causing our money to slip through our fingers!

Often our variable spending is subconscious – a recurring subscription that we’ve never cancelled and is just small enough to slip under the radar is one of our family’s most common sources of money loss. Tracking variable spending is easy as individuals, but can be difficult as a couple, mainly because it’s two different people spending money! It can still be done though, with a few quick steps: · Set up a Google Sheets page that both of you can access · Create categories of typical spending – groceries, clothing, household goods, etc. · Any purchase – with cash, debit, or credit – is recorded in the spreadsheet · Track expenses for a minimum of 7 days, but longer tracking gives more accurate results. Try to do it for a whole month! · If you track for a month or more, it can help to create a new sheet for each week. Keeping track of expenses is essential to understanding how to save our money. There are things that we buy mindlessly that over the course of a month that can add up quite a bit when left unchecked! One purchase that I tend to make on a whim is chewing gum. I chew gum quite a lot if I’m not careful. I use it as a coping mechanism for my ADHD, but it can become an expensive way to cope! When I want to really concentrate on something and ignore the rest of the world, I chew gum. When I’m stressed and trying to maintain a sense of control over my thoughts, emotions, and life, I chew gum. When I have a big mess to clean, I chew gum! One of the hallmark symptoms of ADHD is having a distinct need to move. I concentrate better when I’m moving. I control my emotions better when I’m moving. I can do unpleasant tasks more reliably when I can have a sense of repetitive movement to go along with it. Because it is as much a sensory need as it is a motor need, I usually chew two pieces of gum at a time. Two pieces of gum, used multiple times a day, adds up fast. While we were temporarily unhoused last year, I was chewing almost a pack of gum a day, just to help me cope with the stress. Once we got settled back into our home, and got our home set up again in a way that suited our needs, I knew I had to stop relying on chewing gum to manage my stress levels. It was hurting my jaw at that point, and it was honestly getting so expensive! I ended up buying a pack of silicone teethers for children and adults who have oral sensory and motor needs, and I started wearing one around my neck to chew on when I got stressed. I chewed holes into one in less than a week, and then gradually started to wean myself off of it. I don’t have to chew on a teether or gum every hour of every day anymore, which saves us a lot of money. I estimated that I was spending upwards of $30.00 every month just on chewing gum alone! I still buy gum, but I limit myself to $5.00 worth every month. That’s enough to buy two large packs, and as long as I monitor myself, it keeps me at a reasonable level of use.

While not everyone has a gum problem like I do, we almost all have our special “treats” or splurges that we excuse ourselves for spending money on. If we’re not willing to look at them critically, examine why we are choosing that purchase or behavior, and make adjustments to our habits, then we’re never really giving ourselves and our budgets a chance. This is why tracking our spending is so important. It gives us the ability to observe when we buy for stress or on a whim, and that information not only helps our budget, but gives us important insight into our own minds and emotional responses.

The importance of planning a home budget cannot be overstated, especially when you’re living on one income! Knowing where your money is going, and how to make it work better for your family is essential aspect of creating a recession-proof life. We want our families to have stability through hard times, and to be able to create a plan for creating a long-term legacy of financial security. This is part two of our “Household Budget Creation” series. This month we are discussing tips on how to effectively create a household budget, and ways to save money. Follow us on Pinterest for more money saving tips!

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